WHY PAKISTAN IS SUDDENLY OFFERING AN OLIVE BRANCH TO INDIA - The Daily Guardian
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WHY PAKISTAN IS SUDDENLY OFFERING AN OLIVE BRANCH TO INDIA

If Pakistan’s economy is to revive, its security enabled, health conditions to be treated and to get out of the clutches of China and US, peace with India is mandatory. There is no way anyone will bail out Pakistan.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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After the LoC ceasefire, the next move in the India-Pakistan chessboard is the olive branch being extended to India. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke recently of the necessity of India taking the first step, the Kashmir issue being the lone irritant to better Indo-Pakistani ties and indicated grant of access to resource-rich Central Asia if there was peace. The Pakistani COAS says that peace will elude the subcontinent until Kashmir is resolved, and that it is time to bury the past and move forward. He also adds that the onus for meaningful dialogue rested with India by creating a conducive environment, particularly in Kashmir. (He does not want to bury Kashmir but wants us to do so!). The Pakistan Foreign Minister says that Islamabad wants co-existence and win-win cooperation and not be a part of any regional conflict.

My personal reaction is sceptical pessimism. Pakistan and peace? In 70 years, it has not found peace with itself. It should do that first. Peace with India is later. So, what should be our reaction? While peace is welcome, India should never forget that we are dealing with Pakistan which says one thing and does another. Secondly, India-Pakistan peace is Pakistan’s requirement. Let them make the play. Do not get emotional. Deal with them on realpolitik. The first question we must ask is what has caused this sudden change of heart? The second question and a very important one is: Whom are we going to talk with? The selected government without power? The real power—the Army—which is under the hammer? The people of Pakistan? Or with all of them? The third question is what should be our stand in any future Indo Pak dialogue? What is the end state we seek? Can we bury the past from Pulwama to Mumbai to the Parliament attack to all those other gory ones? How do you bury Pakistan’s present reality? When Pakistan builds a fence along the Afghanistan border, across which it has traditionally sought strategic space, there is a new phenomenon emerging. That new phenomenon is best expressed and understood by what Pakistanis themselves say. 

ON CONSTITUTION

The Constitution is the supreme law and it can neither be suspended—not even for a minute—nor abrogated. Civilian democracy is the only form of constitutional governance; citizens’ fundamental rights have enforcement priority and any de facto domination or interference by the military establishment in our civilian democratic government is unconstitutional. https://www.dawn.com/news/1612470/culture-of-un-constitutionalism.

ON POLITICS

If the three main political parties have each failed to govern justly, efficiently and successfully the question arises: why? Apart from the prevailing political culture and specific failings of political leaders, the answer lies in the unconstitutional, undemocratic and obstructive structures of power that underpin a façade of democratic governance. The prevalence of “military security” over “human security” which undermines national security, national development and nation-building. https://www.dawn.com/news/1609666/saving-pakistan.

ON ARMY

The Constitution clearly defines the functions of the army, namely to defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so… Even a cursory acquaintance with Pakistan’s history is enough to convey the extent of the military’s role in running the country, sometimes directly through coups that swept aside elected governments. At other times, it was enough to call the shots from behind weak civilian dispensations—the ‘civ-mil imbalance’ is a truism, not a figment of the imagination… The fact that several major civilian institutions and bodies are headed by uniformed personnel has further sharpened the perception of a ‘hybrid government’. https://www.dawn.com/news/1601200/militarys-role

ON NAWAZ SHARIF’S SPEECH

Nawaz Sharif’s no-holds-barred virtual speech at Gujranwala where he named names has once again shifted the battle lines: it is not the security establishment but its commander that is the target….It may not be the first time that the military leadership has been blamed for conspiring against civilian dispensations in this country, but Sharif’s tirade has more serious connotations. It is not a military ruler but a serving army chief against whom wrongdoing has been alleged. There has been no mincing of words. https://www.dawn.com/news/1586187/a-precarious-situation.

ON EXPLOITATION

For over 70 years, the country has alternated between authoritarian military regimes and ineffective elected civilian rule. But there have been no fundamental changes to Pakistan’s political power structure. A small power elite has dominated the country’s political scene under civilian as well as military rule…The extractive nature of the state institutions has stunted the growth of an inclusive democratic process. https://www.dawn.com/news/1598642/crisis-of-pakistani-democracy

ON BETRAYAL OF PEOPLE

Few people in the world have been so consistently betrayed by their leaders, governments, political parties and security institutions as the people of Pakistan. They have been lied to; denied basic human rights, dignity and entitlements; robbed of essential human development resources to finance elite priorities and lifestyles; induced to look to the hereafter for justice, etc. https://www.dawn.com/news/1596985 

ON RISING PRICES

In FY21, import of wheat and sugar to control skyrocketing prices of the commodities have played a major role in fuelling the overall import bill. However, the increase in imports of wheat, sugar and palm oil failed to provide any price relief to the masses……Sugar price saw an increase to Rs90-95 per kg from Rs85 per kg in the last week of December, following continuous increase in wholesale prices. https://www.dawn.com/news/1602504/no-let-up-in-food-price-hike-despite-massive-imports. Today, the price of sugar in Pakistan is 105-110 per kg (30% jump in three months). 

ON COMPARISON

The people of Bangladesh are better educated, healthier and wealthier than their Pakistani counterparts. Meanwhile, the former’s macroeconomy, as measured in GDP growth rates during the pandemic, foreign currency reserves and number of private banks operating in the country, is also far more stable and dynamic…the Bangladeshi state has, more or less since its inception, given greater priority to what we can broadly call ‘economic development’, and more specifically the health, education, employment and other human needs of its population. In contrast, the Pakistani state has dedicated a far greater chunk of resources to non-productive heads, defence most prominent of all. https://www.dawn.com/news/1613354/intertwined-fates

ON DEBT TRAP

We are not heading towards a debt trap; we are already in it. Last year…the country added Rs 4.3 trillion to its debt; that is equal to its total tax receipts. External debt went up by $17.8 billion over the last two years while total earnings from export are only $22bn or so. Our earnings from export have only grown by $6bn in 15 years while our external debt has increased by $78bn in the same period. So, what more of a trap do you need when every year your total indebtedness is increasing by an amount equal to your total tax receipts and when your foreign indebtedness has gone up by $17.8bn in two years, which alone is equal to 80% of your annual exports? https://www.dawn.com/news/1587425/depressing-outlook 

ON CPEC

Never in Pakistan’s history has a project been peddled to the people as a game changer the way that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has been. The government is enthusiastic about the $60 billion worth of concrete carpeted highways, energy projects and special economic zones. Early harvest projects worth $19 bn have been completed, and CPEC is now in its second phase, the projects in its first phase have failed to usher in the level of prosperity that was promised to the people. https://www.dawn.com/news/1599988

ON STRATEGY

Any analysis of the emerging scenario must be firmly grounded in strategic realities rather than in wishful thinking… there is now growing strategic divergence between Pakistan and the US because of the development of the Indo-US partnership as an essential element of the US policy of containment of China, on the one hand, and the deepening cooperation between Pakistan and China on the other … factors which will influence US policy on Pakistan are India’s economic weight with a GDP of $2.6 trillion, its increasing global political influence …and its position as the world’s largest democracy …By way of comparison, Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits with a GDP of only $285 billion, there is political instability and its journey as a functioning democracy has been interrupted several times in the past… the increased presence of Americans of Indian origin in powerful positions in the Biden administration may reinforce the trend of deepening cooperation between the two countries, thereby upsetting further the strategic balance in South Asia to Pakistan’s disadvantage. https://www.dawn.com/news/1610267/headwinds-from-the-us

ON WATER SHORTAGE

In the last 27 years, the country has never met its entire Kharif demand: out of its 74.683 maf requisite, the country, on an average, has had 64.573maf… an average shortage of 14 per cent…For 10 out of the 27 years, the shortages were above the average of -14%. For eight years, they were 10% or more. This year, as omens tell us, the country may break the previous record, at least for the early Kharif season — unless abnormal and unexpected rains lash the country or steep rise in temperatures help melt glaciers or snow. https://www.dawn.com/news/1613271/situationer-yearly-reminder-of-water-woes 

Never before in the past 2-3 decades has such internalised soul searching gone on in Pakistan. All these opinions are from Dawn, in which views are guarded and urbane. Imagine the discourse on the streets and nukkads. There is not a single aspect of Pakistan which can be termed positive. Add radicalisation, insurgency, FATA, Waziristan, PDM, TTP, Water Shortage, FATF sanctions, IMF loan and all the other myriad issues which confront Pakistan. The emerging picture is bleak, despondent and hopeless for any Pakistani. If the state of debilitation due to coronavirus is added, collapse and anarchy is very much on the cards. It is against this ‘desperate’ backdrop that this olive branch has been extended. Peace with India is Pakistani requirement and not ours.

WHY THIS SUDDEN CHANGE OF HEART

If Pakistan’s economy is to revive, its security enabled, health conditions to be treated and to get out of the clutches of China and US, peace with India is mandatory. There is no way anyone will bail out Pakistan. Climate change, lack of water, depleting exports and industry, lack of jobs, burgeoning population and separatist forces will never let the economy revive. The alternative is to become a permanent colony of China. Even then, Pakistan cannot handle the double trouble from Afghanistan and India together. It has to mend fences with one at least. The change in heart is for survival of the Army as the sole proprietor of the bankrupt state. They are on the brink and they realise it.

WHOM ARE WE GOING TO TALK WITH? 

Imran Khan’s government is a dummy with no power. He is continuing since the Army has no alternative even though Bilawal Bhutto is being cultivated and has broken ranks from the PDM to some extent. If we talk with the Army, India will be legitimising its role. In such a case any accommodation is only transactional and tactical. At the first opportunity, the India hating Pakistani Army will strike back or renege. Till such time the Army helms Pakistan, any truce is temporary. India’s best bet is to open channels of direct communication with the people of Pakistan. At present this is possible and feasible through vaccine diplomacy. For example, free vaccines for any Pakistani at any of our BOPs, could be tried out. Similarly, free vaccines for any resident of POK should be made available and be a precursor for any talks. We can also start talking with the dissatisfied segments of Pakistani society who are outside Pakistan. Also start speaking to the opposition parties and movement leaders in Pakistan. Widen the scope and discussion. Overall, India must start communicating with all three layers—people, government and the Army.

WHAT SHOULD BE OUR STAND? 

At the outset, we need to marginalise the Pakistan Army. I know it is a tall order. Stop treating Pakistan like a military state. As far as Kashmir is concerned, our stand is simple. Pakistan should vacate it and return POK to India. That is what abrogation of article 370 was all about. Was it not? Pakistan should stop constructing dams on Indus in violation of the status of PoK. Chinese presence should be nullified. CPEC projects in POK should be stopped. Terror infrastructure should be dismantled in a verifiable manner. Hafeez Sayeed and Azhar Masood should be handed over to India. If these conditions are not met, we need not speak. In any case romantic initiatives like ‘Aman ki Asha’ or allowing Pakistanis into Bollywood or IPL should not even be contemplated. Trade with CARs or Afghanistan can wait. Safety of nuclear installations should also be on the agenda. In all this, expect and be prepared for trouble or collapse or anarchy in Pakistan. Let us not make any mistake. It is always around the corner whether Bajwa or Imran Khan like it or not. Might happen anytime or never. Pakistan, like cricket, is full of glorious uncertainties. 

END STATE 

The end state that India seeks in any India-Pakistan dialogue or confrontation is restoration on ground the extent of the political map of India as per the provisions of reorganisation of the state of J&K into the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh which was enacted in the Indian Parliament in August 2019. Till then, can there be peace? That is why the map of India is on the top.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

UP CM INAUGURATES ISDA 2021; ALIGARH NODE OF UP DEFENCE CORRIDOR TO BE INAUGURATED BY AUGUST

Ashish Singh

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The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), in partnership with the Confederation on Indian Industry (CII) and the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), is organizing the Indigenisation Summit on Defence and Aerospace (ISDA) 2021 from 28th to 31st July. Speaking at the Inaugural Session of ISDA 2021, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath said that the Defence corridor in UP is a greenfield project and the industries coming alongside the six nodes of the corridor can benefit immensely from the scheme by becoming part of the ecosystem. 1409 hectares of land has been earmarked under the corridor. The project proposals received so far from 54 companies would create employment of more than sixteen thousand people. He shared that development of roads, electricity, water & boundary walls are underway for the Aligarh node and the inauguration of the Aligarh node, comprising of 74 hectares of industrial land divided into 19 units is proposed in August 2021.

Sharing that 2500 crores have been earmarked by the central government for promoting investments in the defence corridors, he said that land banks were being created for zones where there is a greater demand of land for investment projects. The state government along with the Defence Ministry is also working on the establishment of labs under the Common facilitation centre, Defence testing and Infrastructure scheme which would benefit MSMEs & Start-ups in prototyping, technology training as well as design & development. The state government has also established centres of excellence at IIT Kanpur, BHU for a greater engagement between the Indian navy, industry & academia. The first instalment of the grant for research & development at these centres has already been disbursed & the second is under consideration. Awanish Awasthi, ACS-Home & CEO, UPEIDA noted that the vision of the UP government is to attain 1st position as a business destination. Speaking on the progress of the nodes of the Defence corridor, he mentioned that infrastructure development to the tune of 32 crores is underway at Aligarh and the node is expected to be ready for inauguration by August 2021.

The Kanpur node, where 25 crores has been assigned infrastructure development would also be ready in a couple of months whereas the Jhansi node work would be taken up in the next six months. Chairman ISDA 2021 & Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace Manoj Gupta remarked that a strong and empowered defence ecosystem is crucial for any country seeking to emerge as a significant global player. With the thrust provided by the ‘Make in India’ movement, today India’s exports are to the tune of ten thousand crores which was merely five hundred crores eight years back. Measures like only domestic tenders for contracts below 200 crores, increasing FDI limit in defence production from 49% to 74%, greater number of production categories, defence offset program as well as an updated DAP 2020 will further embolden the defence manufacturing in the country. He further pointed out that a higher offset for defence industries as well as a single-window system for license issuance for the defence manufacturers will go a long way in making UP a hub for defence & aerospace. Jayant Patil, President, SIDM pointed out that the reforms pertaining to the defence sector are focused on building capacity. This is evident through the 15% increase in defence budget allocation. He also highlighted that two-thirds of the defence budget is now dedicated to purchases from Indian industries, of which 20% has been reserved for MSMEs. Patil mentioned that 208 items have been moved to the positive list now hence no imports of these items would be allowed into the country to promote the Indian manufacturers. He highlighted that Indian is expected to be the security provider in the Region, for which the industry can prove to become the sixth arm of the Indian Defence system. Speaking on the occasion, Sachin Agarwal, Chairman, SIDM UP Chapter pointed out that today, close to 8000 Defence Sector MSMEs, primarily from tier 2 and tier 3 cities form the backbone and are the largest part, in terms of volume, of the Industry. He also mentioned that the industries that are bound to grow and mature in this phase of development will find that UP can provide the necessary infrastructure and support needed to augment production and services. Agarwal highlighted that the Government planning to spend $250 billion over the next 10 years for the modernization of its Forces and the Industry will have a critical role to play in meeting these demands. Ashmita Sethi, Co-Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace spoke about the various emerging technologies being deployed in defence manufacturing for which UP can become a potential hub. These included defence electronics, MRO facilities, space related research & development, electric military vehicles among others. Over the 3 day period, Sessions with UPEIDA, DPSUs and the Services HQs will be held to generate awareness about opportunities available for the Industry vis-a-vis Defence Manufacturing.

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Defence

IAF FORMALLY INDUCTS RAFALE AIRCRAFT INTO NO. 101 SQUADRON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Air Force formally inducted Rafale aircraft into No. 101 Squadron at Air Force Station Hasimara in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on Wednesday. Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) presided over the induction ceremony. On arrival, CAS was received by Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command. The event also included a fly-past heralding the arrival of Rafale aircraft to Hasimara followed by a traditional water cannon salute.

Addressing the personnel during the induction ceremony, CAS said that the induction of Rafale had been carefully planned at Hasimara; keeping in mind the importance of strengthening IAF’s capability in the Eastern Sector. Recalling the glorious history of 101 Squadron which bestowed upon them the title of ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor’, CAS urged the personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He said that he had no doubt that the Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.

101 Squadron is the second IAF Squadron to be equipped with Rafale aircraft. The Squadron was formed on 01 May 1949 at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this Squadron includes active participation in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.

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RAJNATH SINGH ADDRESSES SCO DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING IN DUSHANBE ‘

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated Member-States of the SCO on successful completion of 20 years of its existence. He said that though India joined the organisation in 2017, historical and civilisational relations and geographical connects make India inseparable from the SCO. Addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Wednesday Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, Terrorism is the most serious threat to international peace and security. “Any act of terror and support to such acts, including cross border terrorism, committed by whomsoever, wherever and for whatever motives, is a crime against humanity,” he added. The Defence Minister reaffirmed India’s resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Rajnath Singh emphasised, “India accords high priority to the consolidation of trust in the security domain within SCO as well as strengthening ties with SCO partners bilaterally on the basis of equality, mutual respect and understanding.” The challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their sincere practice, he added.

Stressing on the importance of the regional group, Rajnath Singh said, “The SCO Nations, together, encompass nearly half the human population on our planet. In terms of geography, it covers approximately three fifths of the Eurasian continent. We, therefore, have collective stakes to create a safe, secure and stable region that contributes towards progress and improvement of human development indices of our people and the generations which will follow.” He pointed out that it is in the same spirit India helps people of Afghanistan, which is facing violence and devastation over decades. So far India completed 500 projects in Afghanistan and continuing with some more with total development aid of US dollar 3 billion. Speaking about geo-strategic location of India that makes it both a Eurasian land power and also a stake-holder in the Indo-Pacific, the Defence Minister said, “Our intent and aspirations are therefore focused towards prosperity and development of the entire region. We affirm this intent through our national policy of Security and Growth for All in the Region, commonly known by the acronym SAGAR.” Security and Stability are most essential components to create conducive environment for growth and economic development of the region and of our respective Nations, he added.

Reiterating India’s resolve to work within the SCO framework for helping create and maintain a peaceful, secure and stable region, Rajnath Singh highlighted, “India also reiterate commitments to partner with fellow SCO Member-States to develop joint institutional capacities that respect individual national sensitivities and yet generate a spirit of cooperation to create contact and connectivity between people, societies and nations.” Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Defence Minister said “It has affected nations, civil societies and citizens in multiple ways. This is a warning sign of how non-traditional security challenges like pandemics, climate change, food security, water security and associated societal disruptions can impact national and international landscape.”

Rajnath Singh said the Armed Forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation played a stellar role in efforts against Covid-19. He said, “During the global pandemic, India was able to provide support and assistance to countries around the world. This includes 6.6 crore doses of vaccines to 90 countries, support with medicine, medical consumables and equipment to 150 countries. We may mention the massive ‘Vande Bharat’ logistic service to move over 70 lakh stranded people, including foreigners, mostly by air route, but also by our ships in the Indian Ocean.”

Defence Minister assured, “India plans to produce well over 250 crore doses of vaccines between August and the end of 2021.We are determined to vaccinate at least 90 crore adult Indians and to help other friendly countries with vaccine.”

The Defence Minister called upon Member-Nations to evolve to meet the needs of its time. He said, “No institution, howsoever important, can remain frozen at the moment of its foundation. The inherent strength of SCO lies in the fact that Member-States participate in cooperation programme at their own pace and as per respective national policies. We are glad that SCO has evolved as truly an international organisation of significance.” Event of today is yet another step towards strengthening stability and security in the region. This will serve to further development of multilateral cooperation within the SCO format, he added.

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Defence

INDIAN NAVY & IDFC FIRST BANK OFFER HONOUR FIRST BANKING SOLUTIONS TO NAVAL PERSONNEL

Ashish Singh

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IDFC FIRST Bank announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Navy to offer Honour First, a premium banking solution, to serving personnel and veterans of the Indian Navy. Honour First is specially designed keeping in mind the needs of the Armed Forces community. It includes a zero balance salary Honour First salary account with unlimited free ATM transactions from any location, free fund transfers through IMPS, RTGS, and NEFT, free lost card liability protection and purchase protection. It has an accident insurance cover of Rs 46 lakh which include a children education grant of Rs. 4 lakh for wards of age up to 23 years and an additional Rs 2 lakh for girl child marriage cover for daughters in the age bracket of 18 years to 25 years. The MoU for Honour First was signed at the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi between Commodore Neeraj Malhotra, Commodore – Pay and Allowances, Indian Navy and Colin D’Souza, Head – Corporate Salary, IDFC First Bank.

Indian Navy is responsible to safeguard the maritime frontiers of the country including the island territories against external aggression as also assist in the safety of the world sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Speaking on the occasion, Amit Kumar, Head-Retail Liabilities & Branch Banking, IDFC First Bank, said, “It’s a proud moment for us. The association couldn’t have come at a better time as the Indian Navy celebrates the Golden Jubilee of the 1971 war. The Honour First solution is customised to the needs of Naval personnel and stands rooted in our customer-first and nation-first approach. We are constantly improving our offerings using state-of-the-art technology for a superior customer experience. It is a privilege for us to now serving the Indian Navy with an array of our convenient banking services, digitised financial solutions and enhanced access.” Malhotra said, “I welcome the initiative of IDFC First bank to offer customised banking solutions to suit the needs of Indian Navy and its personnel.”

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FLEET AWARD CEREMONY OF WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HELD AT MUMBAI AFTER ONE-YEAR GAP

Ashish Singh

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The Fleet Award Ceremony each year marks the end of the operational cycle of the Western Fleet, the Sword Arm of the Western Naval Command. The ceremony was held at Mumbai after a gap of a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the ceremony was hosted by Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet. The ceremony marked the operational achievements of the Fleet from April 2020 to March 2021. The event was attended by Flag Officers of Western Naval Command with Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command as the Chief Guest.




The ceremony hosted this year was a modest one in adherence to Covid norms. While the attendance was in limited numbers, the achievements of the Fleet were numerous as expected of the Sword Arm. A total of 20 trophies were given away covering a myriad spectrum of naval operations, safety practices and morale. INS Kolkata was awarded the ‘Best Ship’ among the capital ships for exhibiting immaculate grit whilst undertaking a plethora of maritime operations. INS Tarkash was awarded the ‘Most Spirited’ ship for an awe-inspiring display of enthusiasm and morale in all Fleet activities, exercises at sea and indomitable spirit. INS Deepak won the award of ‘Best Ship’ in the category of Tankers and OPVs.

The year covering the operational cycle from April 2020 to March 2021 was anything but ordinary. While the norm of the hour was to work from home, the Western Fleet remained mission deployed and poised for action during the challenging period last year. The Western Fleet also contributed immensely to Covid relief missions in support of the National effort to fight the pandemic. The ships and aircraft of the western fleet also undertook daring rescue operations to save innumerable lives when cyclone Tauktae struck the western coast of India. Today’s ceremony also paid a tribute to the sacrifices of the men and their families who put the call of duty before themselves for all these missions. The Sword Arm remains the first responder, operationally deployed, combat-ready and stood too.

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Defence

US STATE SECRETARY BLINKEN ARRIVES IN NEW DELHI ON A TWO-DAY VISIT

Ashish Singh

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The USA State Secretary Antony J. Blinken has landed in New Delhi on a two-day visit to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening Indo-US partnership and underscore cooperation on shared priorities. Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar to discuss a wide range of issues, including continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis. On Indo-US ties, Secretary Antony J. Blinken has said, “The US and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are having a profound impact on the lives of our citizens. The partnership between the US and India is vital, it’s strong, and it’s increasingly productive.”

THE INDO-PACIFIC FRONT

India is a leading global power and a key US partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. At the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit in March, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19, combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.

DETERRING ADVERSARIES AND DEFENDING INTERESTS

US-India defence cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defence enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA. As of 2020, the US has authorised over $20 billion in defence sales to India. Through the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the US and India work together on co-production and co-development of defence equipment. The US and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan.

STRENGTHENING THE US-INDIA PARTNERSHIP

The US and India have a strong strategic partnership founded on shared values and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The US has supported India’s emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion. The US and India cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and security issues, including defence, non-proliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, shared democratic values, counterterrorism, climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, peacekeeping, the environment, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and oceans. In 2008, the US and India signed an agreement, making India a full partner in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Program. An increase in exchanges under the agreement has allowed for the development of new and innovative programs, and India now has the largest Fulbright Scholar (faculty) program in the world. In FY 2019, this funding provided opportunities for 61 U.S. Scholars, 66 Indian Scholars, 80 US students, including 29 English Teaching Assistants, and 55 Indian students, including 13 Foreign Language Teaching Assistants. The US and India are working to expand cooperation in international organisations. The US welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in January 2021 for a two-year term. In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the US looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year.

COMBATING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The US has contributed more than $200 million to India’s Covid-19 relief and response efforts since the pandemic began, including more than $50 million in emergency supplies and training for more than 218,000 frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, benefitting more than 43 million Indians. Earlier this year, the US and India initiated the renewal of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, including Covid-19 and other emerging threats. The US and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to Covid-19, on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains. The US pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic. This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, therapies, and conducting clinical trials.

TACKLING CLIMATE CRISIS

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry travelled to India in April of this year and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They discussed the importance of two of the world’s largest economies leading together to address the climate crisis. At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to strengthen cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to help each country achieve its respective climate and clean energy goals. Under the new Agenda 2030 Partnership, the US and India look forward to launching the new Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and relaunching the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, led by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, later this year. The US looks forward to furthering cooperation with India on tackling the climate crisis and rising global ambition ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, in November.

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